miércoles, 12 de diciembre de 2018

In lawsuit, Human Longevity alleges that Craig Venter stole trade secrets

In lawsuit, Human Longevity alleges that Craig Venter stole trade secrets

Go West

By Rebecca Robbins

I want to start today’s edition with a few thoughts about the industry’s latest fallen unicorn: Human Longevity Inc., the company founded by genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter that has branded itself as a luxury medical clinic. The San Diego-based startup just raised money at a valuation 80 percent lower than when it last raised money in 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported.

So, what went wrong?

One key factor is that too few people want to pay for HLI’s exhaustive medical workups, which were originally priced at $25,000 but have since been discounted. That begs a fascinating question: At a time when $100 spit kits are flying off the digital shelves, did Venter, HLI, and the company’s investors overestimate consumer appetite for high-end personalized genomics?

It certainly looks that way. At the same time, HLI’s steep prices were always an outlier. I think the jury’s still out on whether consumers can be persuaded to pay for genomic panels with mid-range prices — those in the mid to high hundreds of dollars — in search of actionable medical insights.

Physicians, it seems, caught onto HLI’s apparent overvaluation before many investors. If you look back at stories that other reporters and I wrote about HLI in its heyday, just about all of them include a quote or two from a doctor skeptical that consumers were getting much useful information from HLI. 

One final thought: I’ve been wondering how much of HLI’s decline in value can be linked to the end of the relationship between HLI and Venter, who marshaled his celebrity scientist persona as the face of HLI before leaving this past spring on bitter terms. Send me a note if you have any guesses about the valuation of Craig Venter himself.

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